Relfection is a valuable endeavour

Mike's Musings

Each January, in my industry, it’s time to go back through the work you’ve done in the last calendar year, decide what the best things you did in a variety of categories were and then nominate those things for awards.

Weird, right?

Is it like that in any other business?

Like, has anyone ever nominated themselves for, “Best Bank Teller of the Year in a Town With a Population Under 40,000,” or, “Best Automotive Detailing: SUV or Passenger Van”?

Maybe they have. I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that it is both fun and frustrating to look back at all the work one has done over the course of a year and try to establish the “best” of it.

Especially in journalism.

It’s fun because in this business – as I assume is the case in most businesses – you move past yesterday pretty quickly. As much fun as it was to do a story or attend an awesome community event to tell people about, you have to move on, pretty immediately, to the next thing. There’s no time to appreciate your own work while it’s being done, so it’s nice to look at it in retrospect and remember how much you enjoyed it.

It’s frustrating, however, because how can one say a story about a neighbourhood confused and angry about their cats coming home with shaved patches is “better” or “worse” than one about a new totem pole being raised at a school? Or decide if the profile of a local kick boxer struggling to gain legitimacy for his sport is “better” than the profile of an artist trying to tell the stories of the community that kick boxer lives in?

In journalism – especially in what’s known as “community journalism” – you make a connection, on some level, with every story you write.

At least I do.

That connection, I think, inherently biases my gauge of what my “best” work of the year was, when sorting through it. I tend to lean towards the ones where I think, “I really enjoyed writing that,” when maybe that’s irrelevant.

There are criteria for the awards, of course, which help offset those personal biases, but even those criteria are pretty subjective.

“Quality & clarity of writing (style, organization of thoughts, grammar)” is one of the aspects the work will be judged on, but any writer has a style all their own – if they’re any good at this – and an article hopefully wouldn’t be published if the thoughts in it aren’t organized or it is full of bad grammar.

“Original treatment of the topic & interest to the community,” is another in the list of criteria.

I’m not even sure how that’s going to be figured out.

I mean, sure, if the judges are reading what is essentially the same story presented the same way over and over again, those articles aren’t going to get high scores in, “original treatment,” but how, exactly, are they going to judge an article’s interest to the community? I’m pretty sure they’re not going to take a poll of the local community for every story they receive in each category and ask them whether they cared about the subject.

For that matter, I hope we’re not writing things the community doesn’t care about in the first place.

In any case, by the time you read this, the nominations will have been sent.

Whether I receive any awards for my work this year is really neither here nor there. That’s not why I do this.

I am glad the awards exist, though, if only for the opportunity they afford me to take some time to reflect on what I’ve been doing and appreciate the fact that this is what I get to do for a living.

And I’m looking forward to another year of doing it and looking back on it again next January.